Ruling

Resolution Statement – 08905-23 Hollybourne Developments Limited v Farnham Herald

    • Date complaint received

      22nd June 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 08905-23 Hollybourne Developments Limited v Farnham Herald


Summary of Complaint

1. Hollybourne Developments Limited complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Farnham Herald breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Two hotels to be converted”, published on 15 December 2022.

2. The article reported that “a second town hotel looks set to close its doors after plans were submitted to convert the Farnham House Hotel after a ’partial demolition‘ into two detached homes”. It stated that “a planning application by Hollybourne Developments Ltd was this week verified by Waverly Borough Council, with members of the public given until January 9 to comment on the plans.”

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the article had suggested the hotel was “close[ing] its doors” and that it would be “converted”. The complainant accepted it had made an application to the council for changing the use of the hotel to residential, however said that this was an exploratory application and no decision had been made. It made clear that the hotel was and continued to be operational.

4. The complainant further said that 25% – 30% of planning applications are refused, and another 25 – 30% are never developed and that the article had negatively impacted its business. The complainant also said the publication had not contacted it for comment prior to the publication of the article.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It maintained that the report was accurate and that that the information was sourced from the publicly available Waverley Borough Council planning portal; it said the story was of interest to the local community.

6. The publication said the article did not state the hotel was “closing its doors”, rather it stated plans had been submitted to convert the hotel to housing. It further supplied a link to the application. The publication said it had not included all the details from the planning application and that the document had said: “The supporting information demonstrates that the existing premises are no longer viable as a commercial enterprise, including that as a hotel”.

7. It said it was irrelevant how many planning applications resulted in development and that the article simply stated an application had been made to close the hotel and replace it with homes.

8. The publication said that following receipt of the complaint, it had offered the complainant an opportunity to reply through an article or a letter, which was declined.

9. On 3 March, as a gesture of goodwill, the publication offered to publish a clarification in all editions of the Herald to set the record straight, with wording to be agreed by all parties, along the lines of:

Farnham House Hotel

The Farnham Herald published a story on December 15 headlined ’Two hotels to be converted’.

It concerned planning applications made to Waverley Borough Council for The Bishop’s Table Hotel in West Street and The Farnham House Hotel.

While permission has been granted for The Bishop’s Table to be converted to seven apartments, the planning application to turn the Farnham House Hotel into two detached homes is still pending, and no decision has yet been made.

We apologise for the confusion.

Relevant Clause Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated Outcome

10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

11. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to print the above correction, on page 3 and include an extra sentence reiterating that the hotel remained open for business. In order resolve the complaint, it also offered a one-off advert, up to a full page in size.

12. The complainant made clear it did not consider a clarification would resolve the matter.

13. The publication offered the complainant four half page adverts advertising the hotel, on page 5 of the newspaper for four consecutive weeks.

14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.

15. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

 

Date complaint received:  16/01/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  01/05/2023